Coping With Pet Separation

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Updated: December 23, 2022

senior citizen coping with pet separation

Pet owners know that a strong bond can develop when having a pet, so being separated for even a short period of time can be stressful for both the owner and the animal. For pets, separation anxiety can result in destructive behaviors. Owners may have a difficult time dealing with the defecation, chewing, and pacing that often result when a pet is dealing with separation anxiety. Separation sadness may also occur with the pet owner, especially as a person gets older.  As pet owners advance in age, they may need extra help at home, including life alert systems or senior alerts.  However, fewer resources are readily available to help older adults care for their pets, and this sometimes results in an older person needing to give up their four-legged companion.Pet separation is an issue that will affect your entire family.  Learn more about the causes of separation anxiety and how families and the elderly can work to eliminate it.

Families and Pet Separation

You love your pet, and while it may be difficult for you to be away from him, it may be even worse for your dog and cat.  Unfortunately, a pet with separation anxiety can be destructive and disruptive, so it is important to deal with these issues when they arise.  Dogs are especially prone to separation anxiety, as they are pack animals and have been evolved to serve as human companions.

There are a few steps that families can take in order to deal with separation anxiety.  First, before you leave your home, take your dog for a brisk walk.  Upon your return home, reward your pet with food and water.  This way, when you are leaving, your dog will be in a quiet, resting mode.  Don’t make a big deal about your departure, and when you leave, avoid touching your pet, talking to him, or making eye contact.  Start small by leaving your dog alone for five minutes, and then gradually increase the time.

Senior Citizens and Pet Separation

As an elderly pet owner ages, the fate of the pet/owner bond may become a major issue for the senior.  Their biggest concern may be what will happen to their friend if they are unable to care for their pet any longer, and this issue may be more important than their own welfare.  Some seniors may become remorseful and can feel guilty after having to give up their pet, and this profound sadness can contribute to the continued health deterioration of the older adult.

If your older relative is having difficulty caring for his pet, there are some steps that you can take to assist.  Help take the pet for walks, and make grocery store runs in order to pick up pet food.  If a senior has a large dog that needs frequent exercise, consider getting a lower maintenance pet that may be easier for him to care for.

If a senior is no longer able to care for their pet, family members should consider relocating the pet to live with a close relative or friend.  This way, the senior may still be able to visit with their animal frequently, and they will feel better knowing that their dog or cat is being cared for properly.  If the senior is living in a nursing home or other retirement community, suggest that the facility takes part in a pet therapy program in order to bring animals in to visit the residents.  This way, your loved one will be able to interact with animals without the burden of providing full-time care.

Pets and Separation Anxiety

There is no conclusive evidence to show exactly why some pets develop separation anxiety.  However, a change in residence, owner, or household membership may trigger separation anxiety.  When this issue is present, symptoms may include barking, howling, chewing, furniture destruction, pacing, and urinating or defecating indoors.

If you suspect that your dog may have separation anxiety, it is important to first rule out other medical or behavioral problems.  Certain medications or medical issues may cause incontinence, as can excitement or submissive urination.  Boredom and juvenile destruction could also be the reason that your pet is acting out when you are away from home.

While there are several tips that you can use to help your dog recover from separation anxiety, other things won’t work.  Many people believe that getting a second pet will cure their dog’s separation anxiety, but since his anxiety results from separation from you, a companion isn’t likely to help.  Punishment isn’t effective for the treatment of this issue either, and it can actually make the issues worse.  If you are unable to effectively treat your pet’s separation on your own, consider talking to an experienced trainer for more helpful tips.